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Inside Politics

Blimp to provide convention coverage for police

From Jamie McShane and Jonathan Wald

• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
America Votes 2004

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Authorities are planning to employ a corporate blimp as an alternative intelligence-gathering tool during next week's Republican National Convention in New York City.

Law enforcement officials said the Fujifilm blimp, which has been used in training drills, will patrol over New York throughout the convention week.

Putting high-tech surveillance equipment in a blimp provides advantages over helicopters, the officials said.

"A blimp has the ability to stay up for much longer periods of time and provide a continuous stream of images to various command posts on the ground." said one law enforcement official.

The Fujifilm blimp can fly for 16 hours, the official said.

Adam Yates, director of communications at Fujifilm, said the blimp has been used for surveillance by local law enforcement across the country for the past two years.

"We share the blimp's schedule with police ahead of time," Yates said. "Whenever the blimp is flying in Manhattan, we invite them to make use of it."

Members of the NYPD have boarded the blimp for a bird's eye view of sporting events, including Yankees games, the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the July 4 fireworks show and other large gatherings in New York, Yates said. Police have also used the blimp over Las Vegas.

The blimp can carry up to eight people -- two pilots and six passengers -- and the number of police depends on the occasion

"All of the passenger seats will be available for the use of the NYPD throughout the convention," Yates said.

NYPD insignia will appear together with the Fujifilm brand mark on either side of the blimp during the convention.

"It's the largest blimp in the United States from nose to tip," Yates said.

When airborne, it is 206 feet long and more than 66 feet high, according to the Fujifilm Web site.

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